‘Bumblebee’ Review: Low Budget, Best Performance?


Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers

“Bumblebee” is the first movie of the franchise not directed by Michael Bay, but instead Travis Knight, known for his stop-motion animated works such as “Coraline” and “Kubo and the Two Strings.”

Benjamin Kim and Ki Joon Lee

After the failure of “Transformers: The Last Knight,” Paramount Pictures attempted to save the “Transformers” universe with the sixth entry in the franchise: “Bumblebee.” The movie earned a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is nearly breaking $300 million at the box office worldwide.

Prequel to the first movie, “Bumblebee” takes place in 1987, when Autobot soldier Bumblebee is sent to Earth with the mission to protect and survey the new future base for his whole species. While being chased by both the U.S. military and Decepticons, a villainous group of robot aliens, Bumblebee meets 18-year-old Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) and builds an unbreakable bond with her.

The biggest selling point of “Bumblebee” is by far the coming-of-age story of two likable characters who help each other recover from traumatic experiences. The fan-favorite yellow Autobot can be compared to a vulnerable child, genuinely afraid of the pressure and violence he receives from his enemies. When Charlie, who has her own scars, approaches him with genuine empathy, Bumblebee develops an emotional bond and dependence on her, painting a heart-warming story for the audience.

In addition to movie’s focus on character development, the action sequences are robust and well-crafted, with car-to-robot transformation scenes and battles that excite the fans of the franchise. Notably, the movie lacks the apocalyptic grandeur of its predecessors, but in doing so allows the audience to focus on the emotional aspects of the movie. This movie seems to be the beginning of a different style of “Transformers” that strays from excessive explosions and poor plotlines of Hollywood blockbusters.

Hailee Steinfeld does a fine job at conveying complex emotions, but her acting performance is unoriginal. Critics are commenting on her character portrayal being very similar to social outcast characters from other films. Likewise, John Cena’s Agent Jack Burn’s physique and facial expressions perfectly match the brave and determined government agent, but his character is largely dismissable and cliché.

Overall, “Bumblebee” opens a new path and possibly a revival of the declining franchise. As the critics and audience say, the movie delivers a well-balanced cinematic experience of action, comedy and heart.